James McAnally is an artist, curator, and critic whose work seeks to create a space of expanded authorship and exchange. He is the executive editor and cofounder of Temporary Art Review as well as a founder, codirector, and curator of The Luminary, an incubator for new ideas in the arts based in St. Louis. In his artistic practice, he works as a part of the collaborative US English.
I appreciate this panel in general. I think the conversation after will be really good because we’re all coming from very different places.
So on my end, I thought it would be important first to define terms. We’re not interested in growing an industry, we’re interested in growing a field. An art world obsessed with money, we want to understand how to surpass it. If we can’t imagine new models as critics or publishers, we’re perpetually subservient to models we claim to oppose.
Temporary Art Review is an anti-profit publication, founded in St. Louis in 2011 by Sarrita Hunn and I, in order to connect disparate communities particularly those outside of traditional art centers to document, assess and advocate for artist run and alternative practices throughout the United States and increasingly abroad. We have many starts and resets and restarts. We talk a lot about models, I think it’s because we’ve always been an experiment in how an alternative publication today may operate as much as how it has existed as a publication itself. Its form as always applied back to its language. Our decision, finances, and design moving towards a collapsing center. To talk about alternative spaces we needed to enact or embody an alternative form. To forefront questions of the artist run, we needed to be artist-run ourselves and to discuss inequities in the art world, or problematic platforms, we needed to create a sustainable equitable financial model, a platform we can live with and grow through. It’s simple: We needed to connect the discourse with the work we were doing, the artist, activist, organizer considered inseparable from the critic, editor, publisher. We carry our conscience and out political consciousness forward through our forum, ethics, growth and sustainability are considered inseparable.
That which we cover typically hovers in this border as well. Non-nonprofits, unprofitable for-profits, conflicted curators, conflicted critics, artist-run, artist centric, alternative experimental, ephemeral, and ekphrastic. The models we seek haven’t yet been found or they’re found in the passage between forms and it’s our role to consider their emergence when they appear. We were interested in creating a publication that is an example of the form we celebrate. It advances the forms we see succeeding and that creates meaning that circumscribes ignores or pushes past the art world as we now know it.
To me, the most interesting models come out of extreme dissatisfaction, displacement. Temporary initially reacted to the failure of art criticism and its extremities. In the smaller off-center cities and smaller artist centric spaces. Founding the site in St. Louis in 2011 and in most cities throughout the country the limitations of dominant model was clear from the out set. We knew we could not sustain ourselves on ads or grants, subsisting on existing models, we weren’t going to found a new legacy platform. We had to start from that place, post recession, uncertain support structures, collapsing industry, we emerged alongside what we felt was the defining element of our time. The return of alternative space. In the wake of economic shifts, the protest of shutters in place of context, the conditions of scarcity itself catalyzing new models. Entering this landscape as a national site with an emphasis on communities without an active critical dialogue only punctuated this.
The models weren’t working, so the work wasn’t happening. So much of our work went undocumented, undiscussed. Putting in a broader context of art criticism publishing, a point that persists not only are critical institutions and traditional media outlets faltering, but there continues to be a startling lack of meaningful expansions of models. Not just bloggers, part-timers and casual critics that fill in the gaps our media outlets have always missed but emerging models of publishing more broadly.
We can agree that criticism is in continual crisis. The crisis in audience and readership, The crisis in advertising and gazes time and attention, the crisis of platform and pay. Round tables, presentations and panels like this one often hang there, circling around a point without ever transcending it. The possibilities of emerging platforms should lead to an expansion of agency. New critical voices should be emerging as we understand there no gatekeepers and no gates to keep. New models should be taking root, yet this persistent should continues to haunt the field. Our industry is not going to return in the same form. It’s our obligation to make sure our field is documented, discussed, distributed, contended with publicly. I think this echoes a lot of what Carolina was saying, as well.
Can we not advance alternate means of address, of criticality, of sustainability. In times of crisis, sometimes it’s sufficient to state the issue then experiment with whatever is in your control. Perhaps in this experimentation, we’ll stumble on the new forms of publishing, perhaps the form becomes a model. Because repairing crumbling models isn’t sufficient to address the contours of the contemporary and this moment of experimentation is an opportunity to reshape our work into something that addresses the breadth of art as it is. Decentered, multiple, malleable. There have to be more models than grants ads, sponsored content, pay wall, our models to consider what he we can build outside of these patterns. What a community can create for itself. We founded the site for $1.99. Operated with essentially no budget until recently, publishing over 400 articles from a scattered community of 150 artists, artist writers, curator critics from around the world.
Through this act, we became increasingly interested in the possibility of creating radical sustainable and alternate forms of organizing, of publishing, of being. An emergence of a radical conscience not limited to locality. In many ways this is what we were doing all along but it was inarticulate until we relaunched the site last year as an anti-profit publication with the formulation our vision was to make it public or at least attempt to. This making of a public, connecting together as a community was itself a goal. We didn’t feel like there was a place for ideas to gather that was open, equitable, accessible, diverse, intelligent. A place to prepare that was neither for nor nonprofit but was other. Opposed, experimental, and not just in language but in form. Not just by content, but by finances.
There was a form itself that acted out our oppositional radical stance as being alternate to, yet intersecting with the art world we engage. We decided to distribute what we had this public embarking on ad shares, mutual support, cooperative models and attempt to build out a structure we could live with and in. It is still very much an open ended experiment, one that works at certain moments and of course feels restrictive at times, but nonetheless keeps the space of the site open and undetermined.
Temporary exists in a complex position which I feel is essential to make transparent, we are an anti-profit experiment in mutualism and connectivity. Primarily managed by two people and published in proximity to The Luminary, a nonprofit which I also helped found. It doesn’t exist entirely outside of these systems we critique, but at angles with it. We do sell a small number of ads, mostly from friends and partners, we receive some grant money through the Warhol Foundation, through The Luminary, in order to have create a fund for writers and guest editors, something like 95% of what we publish had been bartered, donated, given to the public as a way to advance this discourse. It’s a collectively developed platform for a quickly growing number of contributors and readers. Anti-profit for us is a transparent reflection of our finances.
More properly, that we operate without finances at the center of our enterprise. We may make money, but when we do, it’s equally shared as one form of payment among others.
So we don’t exist due to a financial model. Nor are we dependent on one. We found both for ourselves and for many of our contributors that finances aren’t the primary concerned when you’re openly aligned along a similar vision. The removing money from the center of the conversation doesn’t collapse, but actually expands it. As a case study just to get practical, Cassie Thornton, an artist in the Bay Area, wrote a piece for Temporary called Save the System in which she advocated for death strikes in the context of increasing costs for MFA programs. In exchange she was given an ad space to do with whatever she wished, she could sell it, barter it further, advertise a project, whatever. She ended up putting up a gold and black ad saying “Bad Credit does not Equal Bad Person,” which led to a site in which she would offer alternative credit scores through her feminist economics department. This microcosm of the site connects as an idea outward. Merging an alternative proposition in one field, puts the structure of a publication in another. Positing a valid alternative economics in a succinct act.
For us an emerging community is the concern. In a broader sense of a radical alternative that does not just critique, but builds. It’s important that Temporary is just one model among many advancing these ideas, a publication echoing the ways that artists are working.
The metaphor we’ve productively applied to our work, but also the larger landscape of that of the artist-run ethos, is that of wild building it’s a practice in which families and small communities create a settlement on border territory that drains off resources from the grid in order to sustain it. What’s interesting about these structures, they’re built along a particular logic, the family builds the first floor out fully, finishing it as a living space and moving in. However, the second and third floors and so on are framed and left unfinished waiting for future generations to inhabit and expand it. It’s a radical form, open ended and anticipatory, the act of foretelling, waiting, preparation, paired for us with documenting, describing, assessing, anticipates the sustainable structure in a migratory border. An un-termed territory. We’re interested in building towards this future space, creating a ground floor that is inhabitable, living here and inching upward floor by floor, we wish to make a public, or at least to attempt to. Thank you.